Alongside its plans to acquire Lockheed Martin F-35 fighters, Belgium is also in negotiations to purchase a pair of medium-altitude, long-endurance unmanned air vehicles.

The country's defence ministry says the government has approved the start of negotiations with the USA over the requirement.

Although it does not specify which UAV it hopes to acquire, images released by Brussels show a General Atomics Aeronautical Systems MQ-9B Sky Guardian – a NATO-standard variant of the B-model Predator.

Belgium describes them as "reconnaissance" assets, suggesting that they will not carry weapons.

Defence minister Steven Vandeput says: "MALE drones play an increasingly important role in operations, but at European level there is a shortage of this type of aircraft.

"With this purchase, [Belgium] is joining the future and at the same time we are helping to eliminate a European shortage."